Legal Issues When Managing Public Roads Affected by Sea Level Rise: Florida
22 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2019
Date Written: June 1, 2019
The State of Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline that will be reshaped by sea-level rise during the next century. By year 2100, mean sea level is projected to be from 20 to 98 inches above levels measured in 1992. Tropical storms and hurricanes have also become more intense in the past twenty years and are likely to remain intense as the climate warms. Sea-level rise and consequential flooding threaten public roads, and addressing this threat requires a clear understanding of who is responsible for public road maintenance, and determination of risk related to what happens when road maintenance becomes locally infeasible due to environmental conditions and finances.
This white paper begins by describing the jurisdiction and authority over public roads in Florida, and then it identifies the maintenance duties for each governmental entity that manages these roadways: state, county, and municipality. This white paper then discusses the elements of a negligence lawsuit and a nuisance claim, both of which could arise from the duty to maintain or repair roads. Next, this white paper explains the governmental power and possibility of raising sovereign immunity as a legal shield for defense in liability claims. Finally, this white paper discusses how a governmental entity could abandon a road to avoid maintenance responsibilities and the real potential of subsequent takings lawsuits that may follow.
Keywords: sea level rise, roads, government duties, abandonment, takings, adaptation
JEL Classification: K32, L98, R42, R52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation